In conjunction with the COP23 climate summit last week, more than 15,000 scientists underlined the need for the world’s nations to come to terms with climate change as they issued a warning to humanity. There is a clear need to address climate change effectively and in time, and the North Sea Region Programme supports this through well-targeted projects.
With its many low-lying areas and long coastlines, the North Sea Region is highly vulnerable to predicted effects of climate change, such as sea level rise, torrential rain, and flooding. The region also needs to reduce its own carbon emissions to meet the EU targets.
These are the main reasons why the North Sea Region Programme is committed to building and upscaling climate resilience and green energy solutions. In fact, nearly half of our 39 on-going projects are wholly dedicated to addressing climate change.
Through a transnational set-up and pilot testing, these projects are discovering and spearheading new, cost-effective solutions.
Adapting to climate change
Seven projects have set out to find workable and affordable ways to address the effects of climate change.
1) Begin works with blue-green infrastructure such as green corridors, permeable paving, bioswales, and rainwater harvesting, helping large cities to build climate resilience and deal with extreme weather events whilst increasing liveability. The project involves stakeholders in value-based decision-making.
2) Building with Nature uses the forces of nature itself to raise the climate change resilience of coasts, estuaries and catchments in the North Sea Region. The project will develop transnational monitoring and expects to inspire policy-makers to incorporate its concepts in national investments worth over €200M/year.
3) CATCH accelerates the redesign of urban water management to tackle climate change. Amongst other activities, the project is developing decision-making tools designed for towns and mid-sized cities which need to adopt climate change adaptation strategies.
4) FAIR seeks to reduce the risk of flooding by upgrading existing infrastructure defences. The project guides cost-effective reinforcement, upgrade and maintenance of dykes, sluices, dams, flood gates and pumping stations at target sites worth €>1Bn/y until 2020.
5) FRAMES develops management frameworks to effectively prevent and handle extreme weather events in the future. Its transnational concept is based on Multi-Layer Safety approaches which include prevention, mitigation via spatial planning, and emergency response.
6) SalFar looks at future-proofing farming in coastal zones that are threatened by salinization caused by rising sea levels and saltwater intrusion. The project will set up ‘living labs’ and develop training for farmers.
7) Topsoil specifically explores the effects of climate change on the groundwater in the top soil layers, and how they can best be dealt with. Although a lot of human activity depends on the top 30 m of soil, little is known about the links between climate change and groundwater flows in this crucial part of the Earth’s crust. Topsoil addresses this knowledge gap and will demonstrate solutions in 16 pilot projects.
Reducing carbon emissions
Ranging from land use systems to schools, ports, greenhouses, and transport, ten projects seek to help mitigate future climate change by reducing the region’s CO2 emissions. Each project promotes solutions designed to meet specific challenges in selected sectors.
1) 2imprezs will implement energy-saving measures in 86 schools across the North Sea Region, expected to result in a saving of 2,155 tonnes of CO2. The project will develop a joint energy-saving programme in support of the EU 2030 Energy Strategy.
2) Canape aims to conserve and restore the region’s peat lands, underpinning their vital role in sequestering carbon. The project will demonstrate how to build the recreational value of peat lands and use them for sustainable ‘paludiculture’ products made from reed and moss.
3) COBEN supports the expansion and mainstreaming of community-owned renewable energy enterprises that provide tangible economic, environmental and social benefits to citizens, such as profit sharing, rebates, investment in social services, community infrastructure, and climate protection.
4) Dual Ports aims to decarbonise Regional Entrepreneurial Ports’ resources through a shared eco-innovation port programme that minimises their environmental footprint. Amongst the business case for alternative, non-conventional energy sources systems.
5) G-PaTRA seeks to reduce CO2 emissions from rural transport. The project will demonstrate that innovative transport interventions in remote, rural and island areas leads to minimum 10% CO2 emissions reduction, whilst providing equal or better mobility options for the residents.
6) HyTrEc2 seeks to kick-start the market for Hydrogen Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles, through enhanced logistics efficiency and new, cost-effective methods for the production, storage, and distribution of green hydrogen.
7) IWTS2.0 promotes inland waterways as cheap, climate-friendly hinterland transport alternatives for commodities transported in large quantities or bulk. The energy input per t/km is superior to rail or road transport and waterways in Europe have been underutilised in the past decades.
8) SEEV4-City works with Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) technology for charging electric vehicles by locally produced renewable energy, thus dramatically increasing the already well-recognised climate benefits of transitioning from petrol-driven vehicles to e-mobility solutions.
9) SHARE-North uses living labs to foster shared mobility in urban and rural areas and employment clusters, such as car sharing, bike sharing, and ride sharing. The project seeks to integrate modern technology with activities to support changes in mobility behaviour.
10) SmartGreen promotes energy-efficient and low-carbon greenhouse production in the North Sea Region. This project uses big data analysis to identify unnecessary energy use and improve greenhouse climate control, complemented by applied research and pilot testing.
In addition to these 17 projects that are wholly dedicated to climate change, 8 additional on-going projects also cover aspects that serve to reduce carbon emissions.
These projects are designed to help the North Sea Region to deal effectively with climate change. They do this by building on the Region’s core strengths, bringing experts, planners and practitioners from several countries together to develop joint solutions to common challenges.